Things I don't like ;)

This afternoon, as I sat in a darkened theatre watching a movie I never would have chosen to watch had I known how sad this scene I was watching Amy Madigan in was, I remembered something Alexander Prior had said.

Prior is the Chief Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is young, like 24, I think, which means I have two neckties, one suit and an old Trek 750 older than he is. Anyways, there he was above us on stage a couple of weeks ago during an ESO Late Night gig at the Winspear. He was introducing Jalons, a work by Iannis Xenakis. Right. I'd never heard of him either.

Before he poked his players to life with his baton, Prior said something remarkable to the audience. He said we probably wouldn't like the music. He said we didn't have to like it. Just listen to it and we could talk about it later, he said. And then they played it. The work was unfamiliar, grating in parts, coming apart in other parts, and soaring. I liked parts, but, overall, he was right. I didn't particularly like it.

I suspect Prior didn't expect the likes of me to suddenly enjoy the strange sounds. I suspect he wouldn't believe me if I said I did.

I suspect he wasn't as much trying to make me an instant fan of Xenakis as he was making a case to confront the Like Algorithmania of our times. That is, the data-based logic that tells me that because I liked the movie Stuck, starring Amy Madigan and Giancarlo Esposito, I will also like Flexx, Miss 2059, and the yet-to-be-released movie Honored.

Indeed, when do we ever willingly anymore choose to experience a song or a movie or a painting that we allow human gatekeepers to choose for us, especially when the experience is predicted to be, in parts, unlikeable? I suspect Alexander Prior was quite okay with my not liking Xenakis. Because he got me to do what I don't do, which is give much time or attention to anything but things I know, or a software program knows, I will like.

Cultural gatekeepers have a bad name. They are stuffy and elitist and superior and boring. Those labels certainly fit some of the epigone elites I worked with in what's left of the institutions they hid away in. They knew what was best for me and ensured that I knew it and knew it was their job to lead me to share their conclusions.  In Prior, I wonder if there is a new kind of gatekeeper on the rise: one who is content for me to spend some valuable time, about 18 minutes if you're counting,  with what I don't like, yet.


Today, in the downtown pedway, I saw Alexander Prior approaching. He walked by.  I took a chance.

"Alexander!" I said. He turned around and put his parka down. I introduced myself, we talked, and I thanked him for the music I didn't completely like that night at the Winspear.

"But did you enjoy not liking it?" he asked.

"Yes, I did." 👍

A Prior meeting


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